What you need to know:
- Within minutes of clearing the floor, Mr Chebukati conducted business of declaring Kenya’s 5th president rather quickly.
- With the certificate and form 34C firmly in his wife’s handbag, the President-elect exited the stage, and went straight back to his holding room.
By the time electoral commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati made his way to the Bomas of Kenya podium to pronounce William Ruto as the winner of a hotly contested elections on August 15, 2022, then Deputy President’s security in conjunction with the General Service Unit (GSU) under the command of Deputy Inspector-General Noor Gabow had cleared the auditorium.
Mr Gabow, playing a central role on taking command asked all the police officers guarding their VIPs to stand down since he was the most senior officer at Bomas.
This instruction seemed to have been a magic bullet that defused the tension of command structure and different units advancing their own orders. With the structure in place, he asked the GSU to be in charge of the security of Mr Chebukati.
Within minutes of clearing the floor and with choir keeping up with the singing, Mr Chebukati had the stage, and fearing another interruption and or chaos, he conducted business of declaring Kenya’s 5th president rather quickly.
The president-elect’s first assignment was securing his announcement. And he had successfully crossed the Rubicon.
With the certificate and form 34C firmly in his wife’s handbag, he exited the stage, and went straight back to his holding room, leaving the IEBC staff back at the boardroom at the auditorium.
Within minutes, media teams at Bomas were informed the president-elect wanted to hold a press conference.
This was strange given that his UDA party had set up just a few kilometres from Bomas, at the Catholic University, an acceptance speech party.
The TV cameras had now switched to the Catholic University showcasing happy faces of UDA leaders smiling, in great moods, and high-fiving each other, the president-elect was expected there in minutes.
However, the president-elect started his press conference, quickly put together he started by saying “the people of Kenya have spoken and we need to respect their voice.”
As soon as he made his opening remarks, journalists in the room scrambling to put their questions and shouting at each other spoke to the confusion in the room.
No one expected the new president to hold a presser at that moment. Noticing the confusion, Dr Ruto moved to assure the room, that he had made time for this press event “relax, relax, I am here,” he said.
The room quietened down as the journalists realized he would field all their questions.
The country was watching this press event following an extraordinary afternoon that was headlined by the Bomas choir and brief chaos broadcasted live on television.
“I am the president now I haven’t had a discussion with the current president but at some point, I am sure there will be a conversation,” Dr Ruto said.
In the back end, we can now reveal, as soon as the president-elect took his certificate, his security detail informed him that it would be a mistake if he left Bomas with only that piece of paper.
He was informed other security detail had taken charge of the perimeter of Bomas and they believed he needed to secure the commissioners and staff.
In that moment, a plan was quickly hatched. He would engage the media and essentially distract the public, while his security team would fetch the chairman and his team and whisk them away from Bomas.
Their fear was that Mr Chebukati and team could have been abducted and in hours that followed, a new form produced and his main competitor announced as the validly elected president.
The low-ranking staff received instructions from Gabow before they were escorted to their final destinations.
“Don’t sleep in your homes tonight.”
For the next three days, all phones were on radio silence, of all the staff and the commissioners. They called these three days “time in Siberia”.
Chaos at Bomas and Ruto demand to Chebukati
But back to the Bomas chaos.
The afternoon of August 15, 2022 was not an ordinary day at the Bomas of Kenya. With the choir putting together more than five hours of singing, a colossal conflict was building in the boardrooms.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners had disagreed on the election results, four of the commissioners had left Bomas for Serena where they made the announcement of their disagreement over the final results.
Mr Chebukati and his team, having watched their colleagues on live TV, decided to make their way to Bomas and announce the results. As they left the room, they were soon informed by their security detail that they might not make it to the auditorium.
A less than 50 meters’ walk was now full of security men, politicians, religious leaders, media and everyone else who could gain access at Bomas.
The push and pull outside that boardroom with different security agencies mostly in plain clothes escalated quickly.
In no time, guns were drawn, words exchanged, and it was clear that the situation had become dangerous.
In this melee, the IEBC security detail, attempting to clear the path for the chairman and his team to make their way to the podium boardroom facing resistance from DCI detectives and other plainclothes officers, split the team.
This somewhat confused the resisting police units, moving the entire crowd out inside the podium, and now in full view of live television.
With Mr Chebukati now secure on the podium boardroom where international observers, religious leaders and agents of the presidential candidates were sitting, the chairman seemed rather nervous and wanted proceedings to move quickly.
Meanwhile, the four commissioners left at the boardroom decided to leave Bomas. As they made their way out, they sent alerts to journalists to meet them at Serena where they would issue a statement.
Back at Bomas, Mr Chebukati asked his legal director Chrispine Otieno Owiye to take the boardroom through Article 138 “in the shortest time possible”, and as soon as Mr Owiye finished, the chairman announced to the room:
“I have that person. His name is William Ruto.”
He then asked the agents of all the presidential candidates to sign form 34C. All agents, except Raila Odinga’s agent Kanchory Saitabao, inked the form.
In that moment, Mr Kanchory expressed frustration with the process. He claimed a plot to rig the elections had been very elaborate and told the chairman “we will not allow you to announce these results.”
He then left the boardroom with Narok Senator Ledama Olekina in tow before they were joined by other Azimio leaders and addressed a press conference.
It is at this point that Mr Chebukati and his team, feeling satisfied with their steps, attempted to make their way to the podium to announce the results.
Hell breaks loose
In that melee, broadcasted live on television, security units, obviously at this point taking instructions from different quarters, engaged each other in fist-fights while protecting their VIPs.
Shell-shocked, the members of the diplomatic corps were whisked away back to the boardroom. Overpowered, the entire IEBC team also retreated back to the boardroom.
At this point, they realized the cost of the brief encounter — Prof Abdi Guliye was bleeding from a wound on his right knee, CEO Marjan Marjan appeared to have been hit by a blunt object on the head, and was bleeding.
The chairman, without any physical injury, was sweating profusely and was in panic. All this while, Dr Ruto — now president — had gained access to Bomas and was following live the events on TV from his designated holding room.
Those who were in the room say Dr Ruto was well briefed on the goings on and the presidential security team that the deputy president had was coordinating well with the IEBC security team.
Getting restless, Dr Ruto asked his security team to take him to see the IEBC chairman.
He was escorted and made his way to the boardroom where Mr Chebukati and staff were holed up.
As soon as he arrived, Dr Ruto asked the chairman to go back to the podium and announce the results.
“I know I have won this election,” he said.
“I am the president-elect, my entire family is here, I am directing my security detail to escort you back to the podium and make that announcement.”
To this point, Mr Chebukati protested.
“I would rather we call the media here in the boardroom,” he said.
“We also have families, we have just been assaulted and I am not willing to bear more risk.”
The room fell silent, only to be interrupted by IEBC legal director Owiye.
He reminded the chairman that while there is no legal requirement for him to go back to the podium and can essentially announce the results from the boardroom, “perception is important, you would be another Samuel Kivuitu.”
Even so, both Prof Guliye and Commissioner Boya Molu, at this point, said they were not willing to go back to the podium, and that they had essentially done their work.
Mr Chebukati, with those words from his legal director and security assurances from Dr Ruto, agreed to head back to the podium one final time.